There will be welcome relief for suffering patients across the Sunshine Coast from today, as elective surgeries get underway again following the National Cabinet’s first easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace marked the first day of surgeries at a visit to Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital.
Mr Wallace said that today’s landmark was an important boost for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of people on the Sunshine Coast.
“There are many people across the Sunshine Coast who have been waiting for today. Many are worried about a test they need to have, while others are suffering from chronic pain or restrictions in their daily life. Their wait has been a necessary sacrifice to help all of us to fight this deadly coronavirus. Today marks the beginning of the end of that wait.” Mr Wallace said.
Since the beginning of the year, the Australian Government has been boosting the capacity of hospitals and has significantly increased stockpiles of necessary equipment. This has included securing over 3,000 new ventilators and adding more than 60 million masks to the national stockpile. Australia will receive deliveries of an extra 100 million masks over the next six weeks to protect vital health care workers in what has been an intensely competitive global environment.
“This is a landmark day for all Australians, because this is the very first coronavirus restriction that the National Cabinet has been able to ease. This has only been possible because of the strong collaboration across governments to build capacity and strengthen the health system to reduce the threat of COVID-19, and because of the amazing response of all Australians in staying home and helping to reduce the spread of this deadly virus. I want to thank each and every person living on the Sunshine Coast for their commitment in recent weeks. We need to keep up this mammoth effort, so that we can be in a position to ease restrictions further in the weeks and months to come.” he said.
Reintroduction of elective surgery will be done using a staged and controlled process which balances the ongoing need for the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, while allowing hospitals to treat elective surgery patients. The selection of patients to undergo elective surgery will be a clinical one, guided by the critical principles agreed by the National Cabinet. Procedures representing low risk, high value care will be prioritised, including for children whose procedures have exceeded clinical wait times, assisted reproduction (IVF), endoscopic procedures, screening programs, and critical dental procedures.
Acting CEO of Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital Samantha Dodd said “Today will see the re-introduction of some of our cataract surgeries, joint replacement surgeries, and some IVF. This will continue through the next fortnight, when we will reassess our position, but it is a very important first step that we are taking today. We would like to thank everyone for their patience.”
During this first stage of reinstating elective surgeries health administrators will be required to monitor supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), ICU and bed capacity.
“Ramsey Healthcare will be taking a very controlled and staged approach to how we do this. We have gone through a very vigorous process for determining how we allocate our theatres to ensure that we are keeping our patients and our medical staff safe. We have worked hard to make sure we do not have a large number of patients in the hospital at the same time, and that social distancing for our staff and patients is maintained.” Ms Dodd said.
Accompanying the easing of this restriction there will be a national study into asymptomatic carriage of COVID-19 in elective surgery patients to further inform testing policy. An overall review for additional support will also be undertaken at two weeks and at four weeks examining the number of positive cases in both healthcare workers and patients linked to increased activity; PPE use and availability; and hospital capacity.
“Restrictions on elective surgery have been incredibly difficult for many people on the Coast. But they have been critical to making sure we have the health care capacity we need to fight COVID-19 in our community. The terrific success we have had in slowing the growth of this disease means that we can now bring relief and reassurance to people all over the Sunshine Coast, but we must stay vigilant, ensure that we are staying safe, and minimise risk. I know that our local doctors and nurses will respond with the incredible professionalism and dedication that we have seen every day through this COVID-19 pandemic.” Mr Wallace said.
The Australian, state and territory governments have put in place clear timeframes to monitor and review the situation as part of the National Cabinet’s commitment to protect patients and health care staff and act in accordance with medical advice.